3D printer creates heart valves in minutes

imprimir valvula.jpg
imprimir valvula.jpg

A team of researchers from Harvard University has managed to develop a 3D printing method that allows the manufacture of synthetic heart valves in less than 10 minutes. This promising technological advance has been successfully tested in sheep, showing that the valves began to function immediately after being implanted. This discovery could revolutionize the field of heart valve replacement surgeries, as this process is currently expensive and requires months to obtain the synthetic valves.

Revolutionary 3D printing technique

The Harvard research team has used a 3D printing technique called focused rotary jet spinning (FRJS) to produce synthetic heart valves. This technique allows the rapid creation of micro or nanofiber structures with adjustable alignments in three dimensions. Instead of using conventional 3D printing, the FRJS uses air jets to deposit a liquid polymer into a heart valve-shaped framework, generating a seamless nanofiber structure. This porous mesh provides a support similar to the extracellular matrix that allows the growth of natural cells of the heart.

Rapid manufacturing and cell remodeling

The main advantage of this method is its speed, since synthetic valves can be produced in less than 10 minutes, compared to the months that the traditional method requires. Additionally, these valves have the ability to remodel themselves as the patient’s cells grow and change over time. This makes them an especially beneficial option for children with heart valve disease who need to undergo multiple surgeries throughout their lives.

Successful tests and results

The researchers conducted a series of tests to assess the strength and elasticity of the synthetic heart valves manufactured using FRJS. They used a pulse doubler to simulate the beating of the heart and verified that the valve opened, closed and held its shape during the experiment. In addition, they grew heart cells on the valves to ensure that the framework material promoted cell growth and did not cause clotting or blockage of blood vessels.

Successful implantation in sheep

To test how the synthetic heart valves work in a living organism, the researchers implanted them in sheep. One of the valves started working immediately and showed cell growth within an hour after the operation. However, the valve implanted in the first sheep stopped working after a few minutes due to an incorrect size that did not fit the animal’s heart. These encouraging results have prompted the research team to plan further trials using different animal models and to evaluate the long-term performance of these implants.

The breakthrough in 3D printing heart valves in minutes is a significant milestone in the field of medicine. This new method offers the possibility of rapidly fabricating synthetic heart valves that adapt to the growth of patients, especially children, avoiding the need for multiple surgeries. While more testing and studies are still required before this technology is available for use in humans, the results so far are very promising. This advance could improve the quality of life for many people who need heart valve replacement surgeries and reduce the costs associated with these procedures.

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.